My First 5 Quick Thoughts On The Women’s March On Washington – Vancouver

Right after the U.S. election this past November, the internet was ablaze with news that a march was being organized in Washington, D.C. My friends and I were like, “We should go!” And really, though we felt we should go, it wasn’t something we could do for various reasons. Other than catching some tweets and reading things here and there, the march in D.C. on January 21st, 2017 wasn’t looking like a part of my reality.

A week before the scheduled march, though, I learned that there was one being organized in Vancouver which isn’t too far from where I live. So, the idea began to brew again: I should go!

If you recall, I’ve been struggling with this mental block of feeling like I don’t have the freedom to do the things I want. Not because anyone is tying me to a chair and telling me this, but because every time I look at my calendar to check if an event is feasible, I encounter 4 other people’s schedules. The odds of a clash are great. So, for a long time I have been telling myself, ‘I can’t’ or ‘It’s too hard.’

The idea of going to the march in Vancouver planted itself in my head but every time it came to the forefront of all the other things occupying my brain, I would send it back into the depths of my mind with a reason why it wouldn’t work or why it would be too complicated. Now, I’m not entirely irrational about this. It is sometimes complicated. But sometimes it’s also a matter of getting creative, or even getting brave. Like when I decided at 7 am last Saturday that I would take my 3 year old daughter whether or not it was the best idea. I just knew that if I didn’t at least try, I would always wish I had.

When my 9 year old heard I was going she wanted in on it, too. So, I let her skip her religion class that morning and in fact, I was thankful for her company and the extra set of hands I kind of knew I would need. I made sure the stroller was in the van, snacks were packed for both girls and figured we would just get there and see how we fared.

Getting there was a breeze – I couldn’t believe I didn’t hit any traffic! I found meter parking a couple blocks from Jack Poole Plaza, and the girls and I followed the pink hats down toward the music. We got right up close to the stage. Once we found the spot we would hang out at over the next 45 minutes to listen to speeches, my youngest asked for a snack. And then she asked for another, and another, and got louder and louder. I had to cave and give her my oldest daughter’s snacks, too! As predicted, my youngest got tired of sitting in her stroller so I let her out. Unfortunately, she didn’t just want to be out of the stroller, she wanted to push it through a crowd of peaceful protesters who were standing still. She literally was the only violent protester there, ramming wheels into unsuspecting people’s ankles. Finally, I got her back in the stroller and handed her her water bottle which she was pleased to see after inhaling all those salty snacks. Less than two minutes later, when they announced we would now start marching, the woman to my right tapped me on the shoulder and said, “She’s spilled her water.” And that she did. All down the front of her shirt and pants. And it pooled in her lap, soaking her through to her skin.

I’ll fast forward to say, we left at that point! But do I regret my last-minute attempt at being part of a movement I believe in? No. Do I regret taking my oldest who was amazed at the number of people who care about important issues? No. If there’s a march again and my youngest is still in this stage of ‘eat and spill all the things’ will I leave her at home? Absolutely.

Here are my first 5 quick thoughts about the Women’s March on Washington in Vancouver:

  1. Wow, we have a lot of activists in the Lower Mainland!
  2. I’m thankful my oldest understood that all these people care about HER – as a girl, as a person of colour, as a human being.
  3. I can’t believe we are still marching about these things, but I’m damn proud that we are.
  4. I don’t understand why the local Black Lives Matter chapter was not included in the planning, organizing and presenting of this march. I’m looking into that today for another article.
  5. I’d like to see how we can go forward as an inclusive, action-centric movement.

Did you attend the march in your area? What were your thoughts? Favourite signs? ‘Like’ our Facebook page, Her Story Media, for some more thoughts on feminism and women’s experiences.

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taslim jaffer, let me out creative

Recipe: The Best Zucchini Loaf Ever (And It’s Vegan!)

Vegan and non-vegan foodies alike, rejoice! Here’s the perfect zucchini loaf for lunches, after-school snacks, simple breakfast options or a dessert you can feel good about serving the family. (I’m not going to say ‘Serve warm with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream’ because you already thought of that, didn’t you?)

I basically took a recipe I found on the internet that turned out way too sweet (it had 2 cups of brown sugar!) which basically killed my efforts of baking up a healthy treat. So I got a little creative and came up with a recipe that, even the kids agreed, is much better on the conscience and the palate.

The Best (Vegan) Zucchini Loaf Ever – makes 2 loaves

Here’s what you need:

6 tbsp ground flax seeds

1/2 c warm water

1 cup coconut sugar

1 cup applesauce (just boil some peeled, cubed apples and mash)

1/2 cup grapeseed oil

1 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 cups zucchini, grated

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup amaranth flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp nutmeg (optional)

1 tsp salt

** You can add 1 cup of chocolate chips or 1 cup of raisins if you like

Here’s what you do:

  1. Grease two loaf pans and preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Mix together ground flax seeds and warm water in a medium sized bowl.
  3. Add sugar, oil, applesauce and vanilla; mix well.
  4. Add grated zucchini; stir till combined.
  5. In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.
  6. Add dry mixture to wet mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in your chocolate chips or raisins, if using.
  7. Divide batter evenly between two pans.
  8. Bake at 350F for 50-55 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool before cutting.

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

10 Martin Luther King Jr Quotes To Share With Your Kids

This morning, while the kids ate their waffles and strawberries, I played for them a YouTube video on my phone which I placed at the centre of the dining table. The kids were quiet (rare) as they listened to Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Prior to playing the video for them, I gave them a brief intro to who he was, what he stood for and the non-violent ways in which he stood up for what was right. I told them about the trip we made to Atlanta, GA with some friends when my oldest daughter was 4 and my son was 15 months old – a trip that included a visit to MLK Jr’s birth home, church and the National Historic Site dedicated in his honour.

After dropping them off to school, I sifted through my photos of that trip which truly held some of the most moving moments of my life (including a visit to a former plantation and slaves quarters). I have a rekindled spark in me to share this world with my kids – not just to enjoy its pretty destinations, but to experience other cultures, visit historical sites and learn the stories that haunt our human history. The world has it all and I want my children to feel they belong to it.

martin luther king jr, atlanta georgia, mlk jr, birth home
The house in which MLK Jr was born and raised.

If you’d like to share some inspiring quotes by MLK Jr with your school-aged children, here are my favourites. What would you add to this list? Please leave a comment below – I’d love to hear from you!

  1. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
  2. The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.
  3. Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
  4. Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.
  5. The time is always right to do what is right.
  6. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
  7. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’
  8. I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
  9. We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
  10. We may all have come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

Trying To Replace My Frustration With Creativity Can Sometimes Be Exhausting

I’ve just spent over an hour trying to solve a dilemma that frustrates me on several different levels. I’m sharing it with you because it truly is a lesson in examining the kind of thought processes I can get stuck in, and maybe it will help you. Or maybe you will think I’m being needlessly annoyed (and annoying). But I’ll go with the former. For one thing, I just really need to get this off my chest.

So, first: great news! I’ve been given an incredible opportunity to teach creative writing to a group of adolescents. The complicated part: it’s a day-time gig. And it’s on a day that I don’t normally have childcare.

My youngest is in daycare/preschool twice a week. The other days I work around her at home, which isn’t easy but we’ve come to an arrangement that works (mostly to her advantage).

Ok, so no problem, I dust off my creative cap and set to work thinking about who could watch my daughter while I am away the entire morning. On consecutive Fridays. And after about 2.5 seconds I realize that the answer is nobody. My siblings are the first people I think of who can watch my kids but it’s Fridays during the day and it’s one of those opportunities that could go on for several weeks on end. And then, here’s that thought that just kills me. I think, “I wish I still had my mom.”

And yes, I’m allowed to think that. I’ve given myself permission to grieve for her for the rest of my life. Some people might say it’s best not to dwell or cry. I say, until I see her again I will miss her and wish she was here. But then I get stuck. And I start thinking of all the ways she would have been a huge help to me and how much my kids would have enjoyed her, and how it’s not fair that my kids’ friends have grandmothers who are involved. And I think about the ones I see at school picking up their grandkids, driving them to wherever, taking them for the weekend. They really are like another set of parents. And if I’m not careful, those thoughts sit like a heavy lead vest on my shoulders, just holding me down.

Ok, so no problem, I have a little cry and then sigh and think, there is always a solution to a problem. A little tired now, I clear my mind for a minute so I can hear the brilliant ideas that I know are just bubbling beneath my surface. And one comes to the top: ask the preschool if you can switch daycare days. Perfect! I’m a genius!

And guess what? Yes! They can switch days so now she will be cared for on Fridays and I can accept this gig. How easy is that?

Except that when I go to enter the day switches in my calendar I realize that I have actually already signed her up for a ballet class on Fridays. During the day. Because she normally does not have preschool. I can’t just cancel her ballet class because she has been waiting for it to start since the last dance class ended in December. And for heaven’s sake, I just bought her new ballet slippers that she will outgrow by the end of the term so I really want her to be in this ballet class!

Back to the negative thought train. It’s like the whole world is conspiring against me taking on this awesome gig. I take one step forward in my career and all my baggage drags me back down another two or three. (Really, these are the things that pop into my head.)

Ok, so no problem, I face palm, grumble and then think, there is ALWAYS a solution to a problem. Even more tired, and now glancing at the time on my computer screen that shows me my precious preschool day during which I am supposed to get a tonne of work done is slowly going down the drain, I clear my mind for some more inspiration. And it comes: see if there’s another ballet class during the week! So I do.

And guess what? Yes, there is! And it’s on a day that is now free with the preschool days being switched. Except it started today and we missed it. But that’s really not a big deal, especially since they prorate the class so I don’t even have to pay for the one I missed. And now I’m actually $5 ahead of the game!

So, I call and make the ballet class switch. And then I go to enter the classes into my calendar and BOOM: two really important online meetings already scheduled for Wednesday mornings next month (literally the same time as the class). By now I’m a bit exhausted by the whole deal – not so much the looking things up, emailing for schedule changes, calling to cancel classes etc, but just from the whole ‘fighting my demons’ part. That part where I am battling the idea that I am always sacrificing for everyone else.

Because I’m not. At least, I’m not anymore. My work is important to me. And contributing to the family pot is important to me. And if that means my daughter misses a couple ballet classes so I can attend these really important meetings, I’m SO OK with that! I’m not changing my meetings and I don’t feel a smidge of guilt. This is new for me. I’ll turn on a T.V. show so I can be guaranteed 45-60 minutes of quiet during my meetings and hope for the best.

It was really important to me to share that with you because I know many of us go through these types of things on the daily. We are constantly being called to be creative and are constantly being tested to prove to ourselves that we matter. That what we think is important matters. I think I passed the test today. I shed some tears, I thought some thoughts. I felt anger, sadness, disappointment…but ultimately, I feel like I did ok.

I hope that whatever you are facing – trivial or something with enormous consequences – you are able to battle your demons, lean on your creativity and know that the Universe always has your back.

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

 

My First Cooking Demo On Facebook Live – And Why I Did It

I never would have done it before. I never would have turned the camera on myself, unrehearsed, and cooked in my kitchen for anyone to see. I never would have gotten my daughter involved without instruction or practice. I never would have said, albeit nervously, “Let’s just do this.” But I did.

Last Thursday, I cooked a very simple recipe while friends chimed in on live stream, passing the camera back and forth between myself and my daughter (without her, I really couldn’t have done it – some of the steps required two hands!). And it was a lot of fun!

And that was my primary reason for doing it. After declaring 2017 the Year of Fun, I had to figure out what exactly that meant. It basically boils down to being who I am, enjoying the things that are fun for me, and not shying away from sharing those parts of me with others. (I admit I have an ulterior motive with that – I’m hoping to inspire you to do the same). It was so liberating to just try it. I mean, anything could have gone ‘wrong’. I could have dropped my phone in the wok! Or, totally flubbed what I was trying to say. I could have burned the tofu. A lot can happen when I multi-task, believe me. And multi-tasking live is a whole ‘nother level of letting go of perfection.

It was fun to engage with my friends who participated, and I particularly liked the comment from my friend Rish who said it was like being in my kitchen with me. YES! That is exactly the feel I was going for. As much as I’d like to appear polished, the truth is, most times, I’m not. I’m kind of that hot mess mom and I’m really starting to love myself anyway.

And through all this, my daughter and I ended up creating a special memory together; we have plans to do more live cooking demos, sharing more intricate recipes and the stories behind them, but most importantly we plan to just have a lot of fun being ourselves. I didn’t actually anticipate that part but I now see it ended up being a great way to model authenticity.

I don’t know where I’ll go with it. That’s the other thing – I don’t have a strategy with this. Am I going to do them weekly? Sporadically? I guess we’ll find out.

If you’re struggling with the same fears or insecurities or anxiety about needing to do things perfectly, I encourage you strongly to let that go. Take a leap and move forward even if you don’t have it all figured out. I always imagine myself 90-something years old on my deathbed, looking back on my life and I ask myself, what choice would I wish I had made. I know that the people who will surround me in that bed, or who will be there in my heart, will also be happy if I live my most creative, authentic life.

So here’s the video!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

Local Jewelry Line, Brooklyn Designs, Shares A Sparkle Of Kindness With Founder of Vancity Business Babes

When women support other women, it’s a phenomenal thing. Whether professionally or in personal matters, when a woman has your back, you know you have more than just a helping hand. You have someone who gets it. Who gets the truth about living life with the expectations placed on us (by society and by ourselves), who gets the physical and emotional backdrop in front of which our multi-tasking lives play out. North American culture generally has this undertone of individualism and competition. But times are changing, friends. I really see it. I see the ways we are moving toward communities of women who support each other in childcare and who build each other up in business.

One such powerhouse community I have been following on social media is Vancity Business Babes, one of Vancouver’s largest networking and resource groups that aims to educate, connect and inspire young, professional women. Founder Danielle Wiebe started the group two years ago based on her belief of cooperation over competition. Since then she has been a beacon for countless entrepreneurs while giving back to the community in creative and authentic ways, such as The Gift of Giving she launched two years ago.

And behind every successful woman is a tribe of women cheering her on. When Danielle’s friend, Jennifer Pereira, nominated her for a random act of kindness through #LMOKindness, I was touched by the words she used:

“Danielle is the remarkable young lady behind Vancity Business Babes. As the founder, she has made it her life’s work to create and enable a community for women in Vancouver to come together in entrepreneurship and collaboration. What sets Danielle apart is her heart. She does everything possible to support community initiatives – often at her own expense. Danielle devotes countless hours to bettering Vancouver and creating a positive experience for others. Anyone that meets her is immediately inspired by her huge smile and heart. Despite facing stress and challenges, she pushes forward.

Danielle is truly inspiring. I think receiving a random act of kindness would be one small way we could give back to Danielle as a token of appreciation for all that she does for 1000s of other people in our city.”

Since Jennifer contacted me I have gotten to know her better too, and I should say, we should all be so lucky to have a friend like her.

One of our favourite sponsors who has shown incredible generosity toward our charitable endeavours – Brooklyn Designs – donated a stunning necklace for this particular random act of kindness. All of Brooke’s creations are easy to pick out in a crowd because they are classy and simple with a boho vibe – perfect for everyday wear or layered up for a more formal look. You will also find Brooklyn Designs on celebrities on T.V. shows, movies and news stations! Their pieces are so well-priced you don’t even have to wait for them to go on sale to grab some – but they do have these huge clearance sales every so often that just blow my mind. Visit their site and sign up for their newsletter to stay abreast of all the special offers in 2017. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and you can never go wrong with a gift (for yourself or someone else!) from this local jewelry designer. Thank you again so much for your generosity, Brooke! You are also the epitome of creativity and kindness!

Follow Brooklyn Designs on Instagram for more looks and style inspiration.

Danielle received the Laurel Aqua Chalcedony pictured here:

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Once again, the #LMOKindness project is a TEAM effort! Thank you to Jennifer for nominating Danielle and thank you Brooke for this beautiful gift of kindness.

If you are interested in participating in the program, it’s easy! Just fill out this nomination form if you know anybody who could use a little token of appreciation.

We really couldn’t run this initiative without our sponsors, so if you are a local business with a desire to give back to the community in this unique and personal way, please be in touch with me for more details. I love shouting about entrepreneurs and individuals who make it a point to keep their business charitable. ** If you don’t have a product or service that can be donated but would still like to participate, I have plenty of ideas that we can talk about!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

Rekindling My Spark

There’s a pull I cannot ignore. It’s strong and also familiar. And if I had to give it a voice it would match my mom’s firm one with a sense of urgency. Like when she would give me her advice when she thought I might be headed in the wrong direction. Wanting to get through to me so badly that there was almost a hint of panic. I don’t feel panicked or fearful when I sense this message; I’m whole-heartedly jumping into it because I know the enormous potential it holds for me to live, truly live, a life that leaves me smiling in the end.

I first heard it on a dance floor and since then I’ve been holding onto it like a precious gem.

On a dance floor with my love looking at me that way, with the music that I love pouring into my soul, I was called to live a life of intentional FUN.

I haven’t been denying myself fun, necessarily, and I can’t say there is a lack of it in the grand scheme of things. I have many moments of laughter, friendship, and connection, and I love the business I am creating as a writer. But there are certain things that I have a special personal relationship with that I don’t indulge in. Like, if I were to strip away all the roles I play: mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend…and just be Taslim…there are some things that are just my jam that don’t get much attention.

So, this year, I’m changing the focus a little, and I’d like to let you in on the ride. I used to have a blog called The Finer Things in Life (formerly called The Artist’s Review). It didn’t last long because I had a hard time keeping up with 3 blogs, but I’d like to revive it in some form right here on Let ME Out!! The Finer Things was essentially a place where I reviewed books, artist events, and dining experiences, and I really can’t see why those thoughts couldn’t be shared here – a space where I encourage you to live creatively and authentically. I may have to do a little housekeeping around here, rearrange some furniture so to speak, so that you can find what you’d like to read more easily. I’m really excited to rekindle my spark with my Self – my true Self – and though it may push me out of my comfort zone slightly, I hope that by sharing that part of me with you, I inspire you to look inward to who you truly are, and let her out to play a little more.

I’ll be posting here but also on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so if we’re not already hanging out on those channels, please say ‘hi’ there! I’ll be using #TaslimsYearofFun to tag the big and little things that I will be infusing fun into. I think that just by intentionally focusing on this 3-letter word, I’ll find it in more places than I dreamed of.

Do you have a word of the year? I’d love to hear it! Leave it in the comments – and I wish you all the best with your intentions for the year, and excellent health to carry them out.

Happy New Year!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

The Books I Read In 2016

2016 was a great literary year for me! I read almost twice as many books as I did in 2015…so YAY! Of course, it helped that I am part of a book club. My friend, Sandhya, and I started one of our own because we’d always wanted to be in one. We’re coming up to our one year anniversary and I’m so thankful for the opportunities it provides me to get together with 9 other readers once a month, and keep me reading throughout the year. I’ve started tracking my books in my Goodreads app which I love and whole-heartedly recommend. It beats the list I kept at the back of my agenda on loose paper.

Anyway, here are the 23 books I read in 2016 with a brief overview of what I thought about each one. They are each linked to my affiliate account with Indigo so if you do make a purchase through a link, thank you! At the end of this post, please leave a comment with a book recommendation for 2017.

1. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Poor Alice bumped her head in spin class and has lost her memory of the last 10 years of her life. Kind of inconvenient when in the last 10 years you gave birth 3 times and are on the brink of a divorce – and you can’t even recall why. This book was hilarious but also made me think about the past 10 years of my life. In some ways, my life parallels Alice’s and it gave all of us ladies at book club a lot to talk about. Definitely easy to read and a good one for book club.

2. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

This book warrants its own post and I am actually going to be posting it in the next couple weeks. I really believe this book made my 2016 as great as it was on a creative level. It helped me re-evaluate my intentions with creativity and gave me a strange kind of confidence to pursue my curiosities simply because…well…why not? Following my curiosities and interests this year was huge for me personally and professionally. Highly recommend this for anyone wanting to live creatively beyond fear (which happens to be the book’s subtitle).

3. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

What a beauty. This book. It really is a literary masterpiece and one I am glad I re-read as an adult because I have such a huge appreciation for the writing. Anne is our beloved Canadian icon who sees the world through these extraordinary lenses – and you won’t be able to help but look at things differently too. This book had me spell-bound and I honestly see myself re-reading it in the next couple years or so. I missed Anne’s company once the book was done. If you haven’t read it yet, or even if you did as a child, go grab a copy now.

4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

This was a re-read for me, too, but it was our second book club pick. A must-read if you are working with or know anyone on the Autism Spectrum. The whole book is written from the perspective of a boy who processes sensory and social information differently, and it’s definitely eye-opening. It was a quick read and I recommend it if you like psychology or understanding human behaviour.

5. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Another book club pick! It’s about a grumpy old man and how he relates to the world around him after his wife passes away. Some funny moments and a bit of a tear-jerker at parts. This book was much-loved in our book club. There’s just something endearing about an old man who can’t seem to figure out why the world is the way it is. Actually, I saw a little of me in him (insert embarrassed face here).

6. Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

So, honestly, I liked this book but didn’t love it. I kind of live under a rock when it comes to famous people. I don’t really know a lot of the ‘newer’ people on the scene. Like, from the last decade. So, unless I’ve read someone’s memoir, I don’t know much about them. In that way, this book was interesting because it allowed me to get to know Amy through her own words. I’m always inspired by creative people who forge their own way and Amy certainly has done that. You should pick up this book if you’re an Amy Poehler fan or want to know what it’s like to make it big after years of building and building and building.

7. Any Known Blood by Lawrence Hill

I do enjoy a Lawrence Hill book and this past year I read three of his! This one I read earlier in the year and it was a great book about a man tracing back his roots so he could write family stories. I loved everything about the premise and enjoyed the read. It gave me the itch to travel and write my own stories. I’ve always been interested in African-American history, and this book reminded me that Canada has a history of its own that I’d like to learn more about. Add this to your list if you want to read more Canadian literature.

8. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

Again, a book by a famous person who I didn’t know. (This is a side effect of not watching T.V. At least there are books!). I identified a lot more with this book than I did with Amy Poehler’s, probably because I could understand the family culture and Mindy’s love of writing. This was another inspiring book about a creative person who just didn’t give up on her dreams, and also knew how to take an opportunity when it was thrown her way. Writers, add this to your list. Dreamers, add this to your list. And of course, if you are a Mindy Kaling fan, you’ll love this book.

9. The Wife by Meg Wolitzer

So, this book I found because I was actually looking for another book by Wolitzer that had been named a Canada Reads book for 2016. I never did find The Interestings but the library had a copy of The Wife so I thought I’d give it a try. I loved this book but hated the character of this woman’s husband. He made me so angry. Although I couldn’t put the book down, it definitely did not leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling. The story is truly a story of a writer’s journey, and also gender gaps and also egos. The literary merit of this book is off the charts – so many times while reading I thought to myself, “Oooohhhh I love how she said that!” I do recommend you add this to your list and look up Meg Wolitzer to learn more about a Canadian author.

10. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Another re-read for book club – and I was thrilled at the opportunity to read it again. This is one of my favourite books of all time. Kidd’s voice is just gorgeous through each of the characters and the story is unparalleled. So many beautiful themes to discuss in a book club with this largely female cast set in the Deep South. The first time I read it I was in college. Reading it again as a mother was like reading it with another pair of reading glasses, and it honestly enhanced the experience. If you haven’t read this book, you really should. And then tell me what you think!

11. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie

The story of a young Nigerian woman who comes to America for further education and ends up learning much more than she bargained for. What I loved is that the main character is also a writer who blogs about her experiences so we get to get in her brain with all her wonderful insight. We also follow her back to Nigeria and watch her try to identify as a Nigerian after so many years in the States. There’s love, loss, and a tonne of culture written in the amazing way that Adichie has with words. I had read her book, Purple Hibiscus, ages ago and after reading Americanah I’ve added it back to my list as a re-read. If you’ve watched any of her TED talks, you will enjoy hearing her voice in her written works.

12. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Perhaps my favourite book club read of 2016, this is an incredible WW2 story of two sisters (the war from women’s perspective!) who have to survive being left behind in Nazi-occupied France. They do so in two completely different ways, each phenomenal in its own right. But please, don’t try to read this in public or without a couple of tissue boxes by your side. I could not put this book down – I read it late into the night, crying into my pyjama shirt while my heart literally felt like it was being wrung dry. READ IT. You have never read about the war from this point of view and it’s real and it’s shattering.

13. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

I liked this book but didn’t love it as I did Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot (the first book in this list). It has all the makings of a light read and I wanted to keep reading to learn the secret and then see how it all played out, but this isn’t one I feel compelled to re-read. Maybe a beach read?

14. Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie

Okay, so this is a book that I picked for book club on the recommendation of my cousin. It really was not a good book. I was obligated to read it of course, because I had to ask the club questions. Nobody liked it. The premise is so good. But I really had to stretch to come up with discussion questions.

15. The Illegal by Lawrence Hill

SO FREAKING AMAZING. The Canada Reads winner for 2016 had a lot to live up to for me because the first book I ever read of Hill’s was The Book of Negroes which had all kinds of fame. This book did not disappoint.

16. Black Berry, Sweet Juice by Lawrence Hill

This was an incredible book! It’s basically part memoir, part research on being black and white in Canada. I loved the style of the book as well as the content, and it even inspired me to start my own creative project on a topic of my interest. If you like memoir, race relations, Canadian social issues and Canadian literature, please add this to your list!

17. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

Another book club read that I absolutely could not put down. This book also takes place in the Deep South on a plantation worked by slaves. The storyline was just incredible and the characters felt so real, I could picture every single one of them. Thankfully, there’s a sequel (which I also read and list below) and it also kept me reading late into the night!

18. Leaving Before the Rains Come by Alexandra Fuller

This book was recommended to me by my friend who knows how much I love memoir. Fuller’s writing is just beautiful and it’s such a unique perspective of a white woman growing up in Africa. I love reading about other people’s families; it always amazes me how different families can be from one another yet we all have these common themes that run through us. Grab this if you love memoir, Africa, and women’s stories.

19. Rush Home Road by Lori Lansens

I finally got around to reading this book! I’m so happy I did; I absolutely loved it! In fact, I’m going to grab my own copy for my personal library because I’m sure I will re-read it. The story is haunting and endearing all at once. I love that it’s also a Canadian book and gives us insight into race relations on this side of the border. Again, it’s a story of love and loss and motherhood and struggle. It really is a beauty.

20. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

Ok, so, first chapter in, I thought I would totally dislike this book. It was a book club pick and I’m glad because it made me keep going and ended up being one of my favourite reads of the year. And once again, I had no idea who Amy Schumer was until I read this memoir of hers and I feel so honoured to know so much about this complex, multi-dimensional person. Because it reminded me that, famous or not, we are all complex and multi-dimensional. And you know? She’s freaking hilarious! But also has a strong social activist voice which I loved. I love women who can speak out without fear or shame. Her messages are important and she definitely knows how to engage on the page!

21. Love, Loss and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi

Ok, wow, I’ve read a lot of memoirs this year and I didn’t even realize it! This one was recommended to me by my friend Raj from Pink Chai Living. And no, I didn’t know who Padma Lakshmi was before this book. And now I follow her on social media everywhere! This book inspired me to get more creative in the kitchen, to learn more family recipes, to cook more with my kids, and keep forging my own path in business. There are also countless stories in here about women’s health, travel, love, entrepreneurship, and more. I really can’t believe how much Padma has lived already! It was amazing to watch her grow into herself through her words.

22. Glory Over Everything: Beyond the Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

This is the sequel to The Kitchen House that I mentioned above. Usually, I’m disappointed by sequels but this one was actually really good. I was so happy to ‘hear from’ some of my favourite characters in the first book, and yet this book had a unique story of its own. If you read the first book and are wondering if you should check out the sequel, I would recommend it.

23. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Ok, so this is not quite a book – just a quick read of what is mostly her TED talk of the same name. I loved it, and so did my husband! It’s a great work that uncovers the true definitions of feminism, a feminist and outlines how we can all work toward gender equality.

I really hope you enjoyed this post and it gave you some inspiration for 2017! Please leave a comment with your favourite reads!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

 

Add Self-Discovery To Your 2017 Through Writing!

As we approach a new year, many of us are thinking about what we’d like to add to our lives to make them more fun, more relaxed, more simple…but how do we know exactly what it is we need? What is it really that would make our lives exactly what we want?

Only one person can know the answer: YOU. And writing can be one way to uncover it.

On Monday January 9, I’m starting a 4-session Writing for Self-Discovery class at South Surrey Arts Centre for anyone who has some experience journaling already and would like to go deeper into the practice. We’ll specifically be focusing on using journaling as a way to know yourself better and make decisions that will increase what you want, and perhaps kick to the curb the things you don’t want. The class runs from 6:30-8:30 pm.

It’s a Level Two class, but all this means is that you have some experience with journaling. If you are unsure of whether this applies to you, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

For more information and to register, please visit Semiahmoo Arts or ask them about Writing For Self-Discovery Level Two by calling 604-592-6970.

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

 

 

5 Benefits To Society When We Invest In Boys & Girls Clubs

Last week, I heard an amazing phrase from Carolyn Tuckwell, President & CEO of Boys and Girls Club at South Coast B.C. (BGC). In fact, I loved it so much I’m going to use it as an ambassador for social change; I aim to be positively disruptive about people’s views of charity.

Because… I don’t like the current thought-process surrounding giving. I think it is condescending, unproductive and can even be harmful. When we give because we are guilted into it, or think we are better off than others (yes, even when we think or say things like ‘less fortunate’ with the best of intentions) we are totally overlooking the power of giving on both sides of the exchange.

Instead of haves and have nots, we are really a collective of human beings with needs and gifts. Every single one of us. And at any given time, each of us needs something and each of us can contribute something. When our basic needs are met, we can begin contributing to society. And who benefits from this? All of us.

The conversation I had with Carolyn on Thursday morning will not leave me for a long time. This is a time in the world, locally and globally, that can feel heavy in our hearts. There are atrocities in our backyard and in places we’ve never been. If you are feeling helpless or like there isn’t any good in the world, have a conversation with somebody who is DOING something to help. Your mood will be lifted, you will be filled with hope, and you will be inspired. This is what Carolyn did for me.

You’re being asked often at this time of year to make donations to various charities. Today, Carolyn and I are asking you to consider making an investment in our society – an investment that can be made at any time of the year with incredible returns. We are all in this business of human outcomes; let’s take a closer look at 5 benefits to our communities when we invest in BGC.

1. Here’s something that blew my mind: Did you know that 20% of Canadian children DO NOT GRADUATE from high school? I had no idea the percentage was that high. So then what? Where do these kids find employment? What do they do for money? What about their self-esteem? What kinds of choices do they end up making? What kind of position are they in to contribute to their communities?

Makes you think, right? All these issues we hear about ‘young people causing trouble’ and the sad state of the world…what if we could do something about it instead of just grumble? When a child is involved in BGC, he or she has role models who did finish high school and went on to get more education. These role models make going to school ‘cool’. You may have heard that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. At BGC, that average is raised by the incredible staff and mentors. In addition to the role models, the kids can be part of homework clubs and receive tutoring. It’s not always the case that the child does not want to do their homework. They just might not have proper workspace. Or perhaps they have too many responsibilities at home, or maybe education isn’t valued in the home due to other priorities. At BGC they’re given the optimal conditions for success.

2. Who better to hear from about the benefits of your investment in BGC than the alumni themselves? Some of the testimonials received from alumni include:

BGC was the only place in their life where they were truly accepted for who they were. Imagine if every child lived that kind of experience. What kind of adults would they grow up to be?

BGC was where they learned about community and giving. Imagine if every child learned about community and giving? What kinds of contributions would these kids make as adults?

This 80-year-old organization is the place where thousands and thousands of children have learned about boundaries, healthy relationships, self-discipline, self-respect, self-confidence and gained life-long friendships. Imagine if more children had access to that. What kind of leadership and compassion would we have in the world today?

An investment in BGC is an investment in that kind of world.

3. No child is ever turned away from the BGC community. Not every child comes with a history of abuse or neglect; they are simply in some way or another not thriving. And the goal of BGC is to ensure that children not just survive, but thrive. Investing in BGC ensures that people are not defined by the hardships they have in childhood. How many adults do you know are still plagued with the trials they faced as children? And a lot of it is because they haven’t been able to define themselves as healthy people independent of the things that happened to them or around them. They haven’t been able to surpass those issues. BGC offers tools so that the children in their care can learn to become independent from the issues. The children can learn that they are so much more than their environment. BGC’s model is to focus on each individual child’s unique talents and potential. So much good comes from that.

4. Everyone wants to belong somewhere. BGC knows that. You know who else knows that? Gangs and other radical groups that prey on people who aren’t tethered to a community. The ones who don’t feel they belong. Gangs and other radical groups know that these children are vulnerable and just want to feel like a part of something. Investing in BGC ensures that more of these children are identified and welcomed into a safe, positive space. The benefit to society is priceless.

5. What I look for when I’m deciding where my hard-earned money is going to go is an organization that gives with dignity. This is a top priority for me because as I mentioned above, the old charity model irks me. These children are NOT powerless, their families are NOT any ‘less than’ my family, and they are NOT broken. And BGC is totally aligned with this way of thinking. It is really important to me that I support an organization that also believes in dignity.

At any given time, you and I need something, and we have something to give. Same goes for these kids and their families. BGC respects that in everything they do and in the way they interact with their community.

[Tweet “Give with dignity, knowing the recipient is capable of bettering your world, too. Support @bgcyvr”]

For more information about Boys and Girls Club South Coast B.C., please visit their website.

Was there an adult who believed in you when you were a child? Did it make a difference in your world? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative